Why Is My Mucus Yellow?

November 7, 2019

7 minutes

If you’ve ever blown your nose and immediately wondered, “Why is my mucus yellow?” then you are not alone. When people see green or yellow mucus after blowing their nose, their first instinct is to call their doctor and request a round of antibiotics to treat an infection. 

However, while the color of your mucus can tell you a lot about the infection you’re fighting, it’s not an exact science. Different mucus colors can mean multiple different things, and you can’t distinguish a bacterial infection from a viral one based on the color of your mucus alone.

So, the next time you catch yourself thinking, “Why is my mucus yellow?” don’t panic. Check out this brief guide to understanding the role of mucus and what you can do about discolored or bright yellow nasal discharge. 

What is mucus and why do we need it?

Mucus is a liquid, slippery substance found lining certain tissues in the body. While it’s made up of several compounds, mucus’s name comes from its main component, a glycoprotein called mucin which is found in several of the body’s viscous solutions, including saliva and your gastric juices. 

In fact, the human body produces 1-2 quarts of mucus per day!

While it’s true that mucus can be extremely annoying, it’s also one of the most beneficial products our body produces. Mucus is a vital part of the respiratory system that delivers big payoffs for your health (despite its frequently frustrating nature).

That’s because mucus keeps your sinuses moist and your airways lubricated, keeps dust and other harmful particles out of your respiratory system, and helps fight infections that can make you sick.

Because mucus plays such an important role in maintaining our health, it’s important to pay attention to changes in its consistency, changes in its color, and changes in whether or not there’s odorous or smelly mucus when blowing your nose

What does the color of mucus mean?

Perhaps the question that crossed your mind after blowing your nose wasn’t, “Why is my mucus yellow?” but rather, “Why is my mucus brown?” or, “Why is my mucus green?” Your mucus can change to different colors when other factors in the body change; in other words, the color of your mucus can sometimes give you a lot of information.  

Clear mucus

Having clear mucus is a sign that everything is alright. Mucus generally contains a mix of water, salts, antibodies, and other immune cells. While some of it can escape through your nose, most of it goes down the back of the throat without you noticing. (An excess of mucus draining down your throat can cause nausea from mucus.) 

Even though clear mucus is healthy, an abundance may indicate the presence of airborne irritants. If you notice your runny nose paired with itchy eyes and sneezing, there’s a good chance it’s an allergic reaction. 

However, a runny nose with clear mucus that lasts for several days may signal the onset of a mild upper respiratory illness, like the common cold.

Yellow or green mucus

When you have a bodily infection, your white blood cells fight to keep you healthy. During this fight, they produce concentrated enzymes that tinge your mucus to be a different color. Usually, the result is a bright green or bright yellow nasal discharge.

Without an examination, there’s not a clear way to tell is causing this infection. It could be sinusitis (also called a sinus infection) or a sign of more serious issues, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. If your yellow mucus lasts longer than ten days, it’s best to visit a doctor for a professional opinion.

In the meantime, the build-up of mucus can cause discomfort. So how do you get rid of yellow mucus (of mucus of another color, for that matter)? For short-term relief, you can: 

  • Take a hot shower to thin out your mucus
  • Drink plenty of liquids to keep the consistency of the mucus more viscous 
  • Blow your nose often with soft facial tissues to avoid irritation
  • Use sterile saline rinses to wash out the excess mucus from your nose

And remember: mucus is a good thing — it’s a sign that your body is fighting the infection. 

White mucus

White mucus is a sign of congestion and inflammation. As the passage of mucus is slowed down through the respiratory tract, your mucus becomes thick, cloudy, and white. 

Make sure to drink plenty of water to rehydrate yourself to “thin” your mucus. If you’re still seeing thick white mucus after proper hydration, it’s possible that you’re experiencing chronic allergies or at the beginning of an infection (prior to the color change from the white blood cell enzymes). 

Fact check: Can you exercise with a sinus infection?

Brown or orange mucus

Both brown and orange mucus can be indicators of dried red blood cells in your nose. There’s no need to panic — it’s normal to see brown or orange mucus if you have a dry nose or if you recently experienced nasal bleeding. 

Keep an eye out for more pink or red mucus. These colors indicate more active bleeding and can be serious if they’re persistent. Be sure to visit a doctor immediately if you’re coughing blood, experiencing red or pink mucus, and noticing other symptoms like weight loss or fatigue.

Black mucus

Pitch-black mucus is rare. Most commonly, it can be caused by smoking cigarettes or using drugs. Residual particles from these can stick to the inside of the respiratory system and come out as black mucus later.

In rare cases, black mucus can be the result of a life-threatening fungal infection. Fungus spores are extremely tiny and only affect people with an already compromised immune system, such as cancer patients. 

Contact your doctor immediately if you notice an onset of black mucus.

Your treatment options

Mucus is a good thing for the body. Unfortunately, mucus’s redeeming qualities don’t exactly make it any less annoying for those dealing with it in excess. Now that you know the answer to the question, “Why is my mucus yellow?” perhaps you are now wondering, “What can I do about yellow mucus?”

 Sometimes, the remedy for excess or yellow mucus is to take medicine and wait until you are healthy again. Other times, the answer needs to be something more direct. If you frequently suffer from mucus issues due to acute or chronic sinus infections, acute or chronic rhinitis, allergies, severe post-nasal drip, and more, and have not responded well to traditional treatment, you may want to explore other options, such as ClariFix for rhinitis relief and balloon sinuplasty. 

Balloon sinuplasty has proven especially successful at restoring proper sinus drainage and providing patients with long-term sinus relief. 

If you’re asking, “Why is my mucus yellow again?” then consider calling Kaplan Sinus Relief 

With balloon sinuplasty, Dr. Kaplan of Kaplan Sinus Relief has helped thousands of Americans find relief from excess or discolored mucus production. A minimally-invasive, in-office procedure, balloon sinuplasty takes less than 20 minutes and provides long-lasting relief from sinus woes and requires little to no recovery time. 

Learn more about how our patients have found relief by checking out our balloon sinuplasty reviews, then call Kaplan Sinus Relief at 713-766-1818 or request a consultation online today to take the next big step towards relief. 

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